District Six trust slams politicians

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The trust set up to rebuild District Six yesterday said it was “cautiously optimistic” about this weekend’s housing handover and called local political leaders “opportunists”.

District Six is an area in Cape Town where locals were forcibly removed from during apartheid.

The country’s democratic government has undertaken land restitution and this weekend handed 70 houses back to those who were forcibly removed from District Six.

District Six residents return to their homes. Pic by Tasneem Adams

District Six residents return to their homes. Pic by Tasneem Adams

Rural development and land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti handed over keys to the new homeowners on Saturday. Premier Helen Zille and mayor Patricia de Lille were also at the event.

It marked phase two of the intergovernmental District Six restitution process.

Anwah Nagia, chairperson of the District Six Redevelopment and Beneficiary Trust (D6), said while their celebrations were marred by politics though.

“It’s been a victory over the apartheid regime and the 1913 Land Act but the trust is concerned. We don’t like political opportunism,” said Nagia.
“Zille has always been critical of this process for many years and also of the trust. We are cautious of the role of the city and province because they were lethargic. We know this is an election year as well and these are opportunists.”

He added: “The people that should get the praise is the trust. I have campaigned all of my life for this issue. We need partners like the city but I feel there was political masquerading in the process. The trust was reluctant to share the platform (on Saturday) with the city and provincial government.”

Nagia was among the trust’s founders in 1994. He said the city administration was also stalling the land restitution process as it had to hand over 42 hectares of land to the trust so that it could build houses for other claimants.

“We have asked that 42 hectares be returned to all families and all those who have not claimed. We don’t want the captains of (construction and other business) industry to get their filthy paws on land earmarked for the community,” said Nagia.

“It looks like pockets of this land could be used by the city and private business. Some land is in the hands of private developers.”

Nagia added: “This shows that both the city and province (governments) don’t like working class families to come back (to the city). They like beautifying the ghettos and making townships look pretty. But if they bring in working class people that affects that property values.”

“Until they have transferred the land to the trust, we will be cautiously optimistic.”

Spokespersons for De Lille and deputy mayor Ian Nielsen but has not yet received a reply from either of them.

De Lille meanwhile told local media at the weekend that District Six held personal significance for her as she had been forcibly removed from there to Lavender Hill.

Zille meanwhile said R65-million had been allocated to build a wellness centre for the District Six residents.

Returning residents told local community radio station Voice of the Cape that being handed keys to their new homes was a “dream come true”.

Fatima Camoodien, 93, was forcibly removed to Kensington and returned to the area where she spent her youth.

“We waited long and suffered. I am happy that I’m back. We were happy in District Six and I’m happy now,” she said.

“The atmosphere here has a lot of barakah (blessings). We hear the athaan (Islamic call to prayer) here five times a day.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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